Today sees the launch of Dancing with the Stars on Disney+, marking the beloved format brand’s move from its home on ABC for a whopping 30 seasons. Once strictly the domain of traditional linear broadcasters, the formats industry has seen a significant uptick in activity from the streamers, with Netflix, HBO Max and Peacock, among others, all taking big swings on new concepts—or rebooting old ones.
And much like what’s happening in other genres, the needs of streamers versus linear broadcasters aren’t too different anymore.
“Local networks all have catch-up services,” says James Townley, global head of content development at Banijay. “They all want content that resonates with audiences, whether it’s four-quad, family viewing or a younger demographic, and successful formats that are low-cost, high-volume are definitely desirable. Across the board, everyone wants dating, everyone wants reality, and premium documentaries are doing particularly well.”
Townley adds, “The broadcast networks do have the ability to deliver live, appointment-to-view television, and they are really strong in the studio entertainment space. But at the end of the day, they all want content; they want to feed the beast. The turnover is fast, especially with the streamers, which need to keep their subscribers. The streamers also want to keep viewers for the entirety of a series, whereas some broadcast networks can do stand-alone, non-scripted entertainment shows, which audiences can dip in and out of. So, the slight difference is the streamers’ prioritization for an arc in a non-scripted series.”
For Tim Gerhartz, president and managing director of Red Arrow Studios International, everyone is on the hunt for “hybrid formats that can work on both linear and nonlinear and that also offer volume, especially for the binge-watching audience. There are exceptions, though, and certain genres remain a linear game, such as live event shows and studio-based game shows. But most traditional networks are equally looking for binge-watchable, VOD-capable shows.”
Andre Renaud, senior VP of global format sales at BBC Studios, agrees that the needs are largely the same across broadcast and streaming—“they’re just a bit more nuanced,” he says. “The bigger broadcasters are looking for big prime-time entertainment brands that draw a large audience. The growing competition among the streamers themselves means they’re also looking for brands with wide appeal. They’re often looking for established brand names or talent to stand apart from their competitors. It seems like every streamer is looking for their niche in dating and cooking. Let’s not forget that dating and cooking formats are evergreens for linear broadcasters, too. The main advantage for streamers is that they have the nuanced audience data and, therefore, the ability to create new ideas targeting a specific audience.”
“I do believe that we are seeing that the world of linear and the world of streamers are getting closer together,” observes Avi Armoza, CEO of Armoza Formats. “Most of the linear channels are now building streaming platforms, and so even if there is a gap now, it is getting smaller every day.”
Armoza adds, “I think the key elements that differentiate the streamers from the broadcasters is that they feel the need for most of the shows [to have a story arc] and not be episodic and that the content must have a clear hook that will attract the viewers to click on the show from their home page.”
Nick Smith, executive VP of formats at All3Media International, says that streamers are open to shows that are “more niche than linear broadcasters would go to; they don’t necessarily have to attract a huge audience but serve neglected groups and convince them to subscribe to their platform.”